Are you ever too old to have new experiences?

I was involved in a lovely event last week which was part of Book Week Scotland (supported by The Scottish Book Trust). Myself and two other writers talked about our memories of Leith. You can read all about it here on the Leith Library blog.  Aunty Sue (of the DIY fame) came too. At 87 it was her first library event.  She loved it. “You’re never too old to have new experiences,” she said.  What do you think?

Here’s a little bit from what I read, which is taken from an article I wrote a few years ago called Refections on Place for a magazine called  Writing in Education .  I talk about my first trip to the docks with my Leither dad :o)

In one sweep Dad perched me on the front of his bike. I hardly had time to grip the handlebars before we were off. As we rattled towards the docks, the squaw, squaw, squalling of squawking gulls grew louder and the sea breeze stronger. Traces of salt dried on my cheeks and the air filled with the sour sweet smell of hops and the  tang of  fresh tar.  Within no time the rainbow Port of Leith unfurled before us. Golden schooners with flapping ivory sails jostled next to hulking purple hulls and tiny red tug boats.  Cranes creaked. Masts rattled. Hoists squeaked. Hairy ropes groaned and all the while the frothy green-grey Firth of Forth slopped and slapped against the quayside wallls.

With pride, Dad pointed out the Ham and Egg boat from Denmark, the enormous grain ship from Canada, and the sturdy  Scottish Coal Boat (chugging out, not coming in). We saw the miraculous swing bridge open its glistening giant arm and an ancient fishing trawler, nets dangling precariously, carry on up the Water of Leith. Further down the bank by a huddle of swans stood  a throng of brown-suited men, wearing glasses and frowns. Dad said they were archaeologists. They’d found thousands upon thousands of clam shells on the shore. Proof, Dad said, that people had lived in Leith since the Stone Age. Then came a big treat, a visit to the Sea Breeze Café and my first ever chocolate biscuit wrapped in foil…

The Sea Breeze was a humid, nicotine stained world within a world: an onion Johnny with a string of yellowing onions draped around his neck talked to a bearded lady; cologne-drenched sailors in real Popeye trousers laughed with ruby-lipped women, who where dressed to go out for the night at nine in the morning; a drunken man fell flat on his face, only to get up again to the enthusiastic cheers of the sweet-toothed tea drinkers. Everyone and anyone seemed welcome at the docks. Spending time there was like being with an exciting friend. And when later in the afternoon Dad returned me to my monochrome life the colours and sights and smells I’d seen pumped through my veins and charged my imagination. This was a place, as Ernest Hemingway said about the world in “For Whom The Bells Toll”, which was worth fighting for.

PS: Last week we started working on Aunty Sue’s bathroom and by this time next week I hope to show you photos of the finished product! It’s still not costing anywhere near the quoted £7200,  although it is taking longer than anticipated and even when Aunty Sue isn’t around it’s difficult not to eat 😉

This entry was posted in For everyone and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Are you ever too old to have new experiences?

  1. Joy Claridge says:

    No – never too old – have just had my first term of piano lessons – wow! Knew I wanted to – now I know why – so, it will take me a bit longer and I’ll never be a virtuoso – but not too late to bang out a tune I reckon.

  2. Marianne Wheelaghan says:

    Exactly! And good for you, Joy! You’ll have to send us a wee video or audio boo – when you’re ready, of course ;o)

  3. Louisa says:

    Lovely, Marianne! Makes me proud to have once lived in Leith! And please keep up the updates on Aunty Sue — she is right, never too late to learn!

    • Marianne Wheelaghan says:

      Awe, thanks Louisa 🙂 It really was a lovely afternoon at Leith Library. What is especially great about events such as these is they encourage people like Aunty Sue, who would have otherwise thought this wasn’t something for her, to come along and join in. Okay, I know she had an invested interest in that one of the authors was her niece, but even so, she was genuinely delighted with her new experience! (oh yes, most of the events I do are held in the evening, so being in the afternoon was great because it made it possible for Aunty Sue to come!)

  4. Wendy says:

    A great piece of writing – I was transported to those docks…and…you are never too old to do the Argentine Tango!

    • Marianne Wheelaghan says:

      Awe, thank you, Wendy. So glad you liked it – and, yes, never to old to do the Argentine Tango or even a bit of Salsa, Joy ;o)

  5. Suzanne Wheelaghan says:

    Fantastic. It’s overwhelming as we all have these personal memories and while they overlap there is so much that is so different in every one. To see the photos of Dad and Aunty Sue too, and all the memories that they set sparking off, they are magic boxes because every time you look something has changed. Of catching the number 23 from Howard Place up to Aunty Sue’s with Mum of an afternoon, and having tea and cake with her and her friends. Aunty Sue letting me smell her perfume bottles. Listening to Dad describe how the docks once were, of what they looked like and what it was like to work there. It is a lifetime ago, lifetimes ago, but yet it feels so close. You realise how much we still need oral histories. Great work.

    • Marianne Wheelaghan says:

      Hello Suzy! like you say, shared memories shimmer with resonance and yet can be totally different. Magic boxes is a great description. I laughed at you smelling Aunty Sue’s perfume bottles, I did that too and had almost forgotten all about it – sparking new memories indeed! Staying up late talking to Mum so many times when I came home, or listening to Dad’s stories about the docks – or the ones from when he was in Italy, or South Africa or when he worked as a delivery boy at Crawfords The Bakers. Like you say, as if yesterday. My BIGGEST regret now is I didn’t always keep a diary and record everything. Mum used to say she hoped I was writing everything down, and I was sometimes but then I suppose life got in the way and I stopped. The great thing about sharing memories is, as you say, a time and place and people feel so close even after so many years ;o)

  6. Definitely never too old to have new experiences!

  7. lorna says:

    – sure, never too old to learn something new! The problem is finding the time!
    Great wee story of going to the docks, really like it – I remember getting a ride down Leith Walk on the cross bar of dad’s bike – all I can remember is dad appearing out of nowhere and being birreled up onto the bike, then feeling like I was on top of the world – all those walks down Leith Walk to Portobello beach, walking through the steamie taking a short cut from Bonnington Road to Doctor Bell’s- taking old junk to the rag and bone man for pennies – toffee cups we could never afford to buy from that wee shop in Jane Street..and Auntie Susan making tablet! Life in Leith seems to be inextricably linked with sugar! I’m glad you and Aunty Sue are having fun!

    • Marianne Wheelaghan says:

      Ha ha! I’d forgotten all about the steamie and the rag and bone man on Easter Road – although remember walking to Portobello (and buying bags of chips with our bus fare home) and the toffee cups and tablet very well ;o)

  8. Mabel Price MELDRUM (born in royal mile) says:

    I used to visit a spookie woman called frances (round about albert st) do you know if she is around

  9. Pingback: Book Week Scotland 2013! | Marianne Wheelaghan

  10. Pingback: Book Week Scotland 2013 | Marianne Wheelaghan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Anti-spam: complete the taskWordPress CAPTCHA